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The Fourth Wall

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The Fourth Wall refers to an imagined barrier between fictional realms and the real world. In effect, it is the separation of the real and the imagined. The origin of the term The Fourth Wall was first used in theatre, where actors would acknowledge the presence of the audience through actions or speech. In the video game world, The Fourth Wall is often addressed in a humorous manner.

Breaking The Fourth Wall

Frequently, the act of "breaking the fourth wall" is mentioned; that is, the fictional world acknowledging its status as fiction. This is usually shown by:
Mgs1-free

Acknowledgement of the gamer in Metal Gear Solid.

  • A character making a reference to real world events that are not part of the game's world
  • Training areas that teach the player controls based on his own controller, IE: A human character being told that pressing the UP Arrow will make them walk forward
  • Acknowledgement of statistics that have no logical bearing on characters storywise, but are staples of the genre; IE: Levels in RPGs
  • Characters actually interacting with the human player; such as, insults at the player, pleas for help towards the player
  • Acknowledgement of the fourth wall itself

Frequently, breaking the fourth wall is used in a humorous manner, including jokes and asides to the action. At times, it is used to teach the player, as in the aforementioned training sequences.

Criticism

Some gamers find the idea of breaking the fourth wall to be annoying. While deep in immersion while playing a game, breaking the fourth wall can unwillingly remind the player that they're playing a game. For this reason, breaks are usually regulated to early game training, and humorous moments which the player would hopefully enjoy anyway.

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